Monday, September 26, 2016

Yellow Brick Road


In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:6
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105

This morning during my prayer time I was talking to God about feeling a bit lost. I so dearly want to do His will and go only where He directs. I prayed for a clearer vision, for more Holy Spirit power. Suddenly I found myself talking about the yellow brick road from the Wizard of Oz.

How great would that be? Can you imagine? You take your question, decision, confusion to God and turn it over to Him. There in front of you, path illumined! If only the Holy Spirit would take us by the shoulders, turn us toward our goal and say, “follow the yellow brick road” or shiny white way or whatever color the Holy Spirit likes to use.

Throughout the day my mind wandered back to that thought. What if? It isn't like it would be all smooth steps from there. We would still encounter trials and potholes. Think about Dorothy's journey. Can you hear it? “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!”

That's not all of it either. There was evil, in the form of a wicked witch, and once again, Dorothy has it easier than we do. Evil doesn't show up at my door wearing a pointy hat and carrying a broom. It often looks a lot like fun or even opportunity. Our enemies are not as blatant as Dorothy's were. Ours are sneaky. They masquerade as righteous indignation, worry, or things that are “not that bad.” Sometimes our enemy dresses up to look more like invitation than temptations.

Dorothy had her yellow brick road and her obvious nemeses, while we walk by faith and try hard to recognize the enemy. We have to walk by faith. God's Word is most certainly a light to our paths but we have to stay in that light, in the Word. Even so, we often misinterpret it. We walk our various color, brick, sand and pothole filled roads. We do what we can to avoid evil and we pray. And right there is the biggest and best difference.

In the end, at the end of the yellow brick road Dorothy encountered a fake savior. In the end when we get to our curtain, we don't have to wonder what's behind it. It's torn. It was torn by the One who came to save us. We may have a more treacherous journey. We may not know exactly what road to walk or how to walk it but we do know one thing. When we get to the end, we're already home. No need for ruby slippers and incantations. All we need is the saving grace of Jesus Christ and the best news is, we already have it.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Mountains and Valleys


 

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want,

He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name sake. Psalm 23:1, 3

My husband and I live in Florida. It is flat here, very flat. Having transplanted from upstate New York, that flatness was odd at first. Now, rolling hills, valleys, mountains, those are things we visit and feel awe.

As each of us walks our faith we often encounter teachings, sermons, devotional messages about the mountains and the valleys. We want, we're told, the mountain top experience, where we can see for miles, beauty, majesty. I love the view from the top of the mountain. While visiting Tennessee, Otto and I went to Clingmans Dome, which is the highest point in Tennessee. It is magnificent.

Let me get back to, we live in Florida, flat, flat Florida. I'm not an athlete of any kind. I'm a grandma in decent but certainly not good shape. That walk to Clingmans Dome was not easy. It was beautiful and awe inspiring, even on the way up, even as I had to stop to catch my breath. It was gorgeous but it was a climb.

Later we would travel back down and gaze up at where we'd been. The view from below, to me, is equally beautiful. I have three pictures of the same tower. One is from above, taken while we were ascending. One is from below, taking from the valley. The third one was taken from our balcony and is about at the same level as the tower. It's the same tower but the size, color, and location all seem a little different in each picture.

Right now I am in what some would call a valley. There are things in my life that I would never have chosen. There are things that I hate and that is when people say, “oh you're in the valley.” Hm, no, I don't think so. I think I'm on the climb. It's hard. Often I can't catch my breath. My heart hurts. I get angry too quickly and I don't like this. To quote my precious three year-old granddaughter, Harper Rosie, “I'm sick of this! I'm done with this.! I'm over it!” This doesn't seem like a lush, green valley with an upward view of majesty and beauty. It seems like one painstaking step after another. It doesn't feel like the walking ascent to Clingmans Dome. It feels like the treacherous ascent we see when people are strapped in and clinging to the side of a rocky mountain.

The mountain top is beautiful. The valley is beautiful. It's the climb up and the often hurtling fall back down that are far from beautiful. I'm aware that my perspective is a bit different from the cliché, mountain/valley perspective. Here on my current climb, fall back, climb, fall back journey I know one thing for sure, God is with me. He is for me. He is holding me up, sending angels to be sure that I don't hit my foot against a stone. (Psalm 91:11-12) Regardless of where I am in the journey, God is good and His will is best.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

All About Me


 

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33

For the last few weeks I've been revisiting some familiar songs. They are songs from a movie series my grandchildren loved. Now one of my students is allowed to watch videos of the songs as a reward. Listening to them I was struck by two thoughts, all three movies follow the same exact formula. Each one contains the anthem, the breakup song, the song of angst sung by the male lead, and so on and so forth. One set of songs stood out to me and I realized that it is a part of the problem in today's society.

One female character is convinced that she is someone special. She pouts, she poses, she manipulates and she schemes, all to get her own way. Her innate selfishness and exaggerated self-image is demonstrated in each movie by a song. In the first one, she's going to the top of the heap, no one will get in her way. In the second one, she announces that her life should be perfect, fantastic, nothing but the best, better than the best. In the third one, she freely admits she wants it all, all. Why? Simple, it's all about her, no one else matters.

We laugh at the songs as we listen to them and watch the histrionics that go along with the music. Is it funny? Maybe not.

When I taught Pre-K we always did a project at the beginning of the year called, All About Me. It's a perfectly innocent and acceptable way for the children to get to know each other, for the teacher to get to know each student. The project isn't the problem; it's the title, “All About Me.” Right there, we start our babies on the road to seeing themselves as centers of the universe which of course, they are not.

Each one of us will take that to a different level. I, thank God, have never been at the level of our fictional friend who thinks her life is the only one that really counts but I've known her real life counterparts. They used to be anomalies but now that behavior, that belief is becoming more rampant. What happens to a world where each individual is interested only in their own life, their best outcome? Look around, read the news. We're beginning to see what happens in a “me first, last and only” society.

We need to remember and to remind the children in our lives that it is God first and foremost, then everything else falls into place. Sometimes it goes our way and sometimes it does not but as long as we are in His will, all is well. If it is All About God, it's a much better and more fulfilling life.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Needs


 

I am the vine and you are the branches. If a man remain in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing.” John 15:5

A few weeks ago I was at dinner with my husband, daughter and three granddaughters. It was a special dinner, so of course we had our phones out to take pictures. After leaving the restaurant we began to walk along, stopping to watch a street performer. As we did I reached for my phone to take a picture of my granddaughters and it wasn't where I usually put it. I mentioned that I thought I might have left it in the restaurant. I delivered that information with no fear or panic in my voice. Would it be a an inconvenience to walk back through the crowded, tourist filled area to the restaurant? A little. Was I in utter panic because I'd left my phone? No.

That last piece of information was too much for my daughter. “Mom! Why aren't you freaking out? It's your phone!” She said to me in a tone that suggested we'd left one of the girls behind. “What if you can't get it back?”

While my poor girl was freaking out for me, I looked through the rest of my bag and lo and behold, there was the phone. I laughed at my daughter's obvious relief. What was the worst that could happen if I didn't get the phone back? I was with my husband and daughter, both of whom have phones which meant I could easily contact my son if necessary. I would have been sad over lost pictures but beyond that a phone is replaceable.

Since then, I've thought of that event so many times. How many people would react as my daughter did? Most, I dare to think. We've all become super attached to our phones and tablets and pads. If I hadn't been with my husband my own reaction would have been stronger, not the total panic my daughter deemed necessary, but stronger.

That led me to think about what is truly important. If my life is stripped down to what I really need, what I really need is Jesus. In His infinite love and mercy He has provided a wonderful husband along with many other dear people, things I truly need, food, clothes, shelter, things I think I need, and things I simply want. Still, at the end of the day, all of those people and things are blessings only if I recognize the Giver of the Gifts. I am merely a branch on the beautiful Vine and apart from that Vine I have nothing and I am nothing.